Life in the UK

Well.. This is a humble attempt to get out of the current state of stagnation; and hopefully it is of value to someone else as well. By no means, it is NOT pointers towards the UK citizenship test.

Having spent some time in the UK some years back, and considering that each now and then one of my friends or acquaintances is going there as well, I find my self often times repeating the same pointers from one email to the next (depending on my memory). I thought to put one particular one here, to at least make them accessible to a wider audience.

With out further due, here we go below. I would be interested to hear your experiences as well! Please share!


DISCLAIMER:

This is not an endorsement of a certain chain of stores or the like, just personal experience/ preference. I’m Sudanese btw, given advice to a Sudanese, so expect some culture-specific pieces.
Original email was composed back in 2015, when a friend of mine was starting her PhD in the University of  Leeds in the Autumn semester. Weather was very different from what she is used to in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Sudan (we both are 3rd culture individuals)
Also, given Brixet, some of the pieces may not be applicable – I haven’t been there afterwards!


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“UK is a great shopping destination! Provided you know where and when to go ….
First, let’s talk basics: Where:
  • Clothes and shoes: Marks and Spencer is invaluable in terms of reasonably priced clothes and shoes (that I’m sure you will like), and so is BHS… I go to them in this order, trusting I’m getting the best price even if out of season shopping… (John Lewis is great if there is a sale, or you wish to buy somthing very very special, cause generally it tends to offer somewhat more expensive clothes)
    Btw, formal clothes, especially blouses and jackets are easy to find, and it is really hard to resist the temptation of getting everything!My advice: get 2 Jackets: One that you would be wearing in the office (somewhat light wool sweater/ pullover), and another ‘big’ one to wear on top (pick the ones that would not leak water, so that you can wear it under the rain and snow [yes! it rains and snows that often in UK! ])

    Also, get a ‘thermal wear’, which you would find it next to the underwear section… It can be sold like a tight trouser and a shirt that you would wear underneath your normal clothes.. It will keep you warm, and you would definitely need that!

    In terms of shoes, especially for the autumn and winter, pick ones with hard heals… I mean ones that are sturdy so you won’t slip if it is rainy or snowy (walk very carefully after snow, as you may slip easily, and it would hurt, I mean really hurt!)…
    Also, if you wish to build your snow man, then please do so,  but once done, NEVER NEVER NEVER put your freezing hand under hot or boiling water… The best way to regain your body temperature is by putting your hand under cold water actually, as if you do it the other way, your skin will burn (scientifically speaking, your neurons won’t know the difference between extreme hot and extreme cold temperature, so your body will yield the same reaction).. Cloves are essentials not accessories btw, and definitely for the winter… There are cool ones that allow your fingers to be taken out to pick up the phone for example…

    To the side: make sure you read the regulations from your dorm.. Typically, you are not allowed to get a heater in your room 😦

Also, to the side: Warning: UK weather is highly ‘moody’, and it usually changes its state dramatically in a split second, so make sure you check the weather before you go out, and definitely as you plan when to go abroad or travel!
  • Grocery:
  1. mysupermarket.co.uk (just give it your list, and it will compare prices among 3 or more big mega supermarkets across the UK, and they will have it delivered to you. You may enable alternatives if you have mere preference for an item and it is not that critical for it to be from a certain brand).. Personally, I used to go to ASDA if my list includes something like Zhtr (Thyme) or Buk (the cheese), or usually it is Tesco otherwise (their own labelled food tastes much better)
  2. milkandmore.co.uk: They would deliver fresh milk to your doorstep at a time of your choosing! They also offer other dietary items if you wish in addition to breadPersonally, going shopping in person was too much of a burden (I over buy stuff, and they get too heavy for me to carry around, so have to take a taxi to go home, and then unload, in addition to the 4~5 hours it took me to locate the items i wished to buy), so pre-ordering on line seemed to save me time and effort… Sometimes, I ordered with my roommates when my list is merely 3~4 items, but then there is always the monthly list that is definitely be worthy of the order..

    You can get everything ready, including chopped salad actually! My call? Always cook at home and make sure you have access to fresh fruit and vegetables as part of your daily diet… Instead of chips/ chocolate, have a basket of apple or banana by your office… Your body will thank you!

    Kusher sign is not really that used in UK, so you would want to educate yourself well, in terms of what is Halal and what is not… Take care when it comes to cheese, ketchup, vanilla, chocoloate, mayounise.. And definitely meat and chicken… [In the first couple of month, i was dependent on egg, milk, vegetables and fruits actually, then my list expanded gradually… Tuna should be safe though]

  • Hair care and beauty supplies: there are usually shops for blacks in town. I mean shops that sell hair creams and shampoos that are designed for black women (like say, tea tree oil, Shea butter and the like ), as usually big stores sell big brands (head&shoulders and their likes) that are not particularly designed for black women…
  • Health: I used to go to Boots, as it is a big pharmacy, and it has branches everywhere… Nothing is that special about it really, but it is a matter of preference…. Make sure they give you their card, as your accumulated points (over the 3 years) would be probably quite tangible…
    The general advice is, however, to take some anti-biotics and flu medicines with you, as they wouldn’t sell you these unless with prescription, and the MD wouldn’t prescribe them for you unless you are literally dying- no joke!
    And to the same line, Karkadi is indiscipline! (Vicks as well, but you will find it everywhere)
  • Electronics: order these from USA! (or get them in advance from KSA) Even with shippment, even if you had to pay taxes, they will be cheaper than if you got them from UK!
  • Furniture: I don’t really know, but there is this place called (Primark).. It is a big shop and you will find it everywhere you go in UK… While I wouldn’t recommend buying clothes, bags or shoes from them (they will wear fast generally, but then again, everyone changes their clothet each season anyway!), I think you can go to them if you wish to buy a duvet, pillow, trash bin, and similar stuff that do not need to be of extremely high quality.. I got my duvet from them, and the fabric was very good actually…
  • Communications: Personally, I was on contract with Three (three.co.uk, I think) who offered free calls within their network in addition to sms and internet for about 10 pounds a month… I also used Lebara for international calls, as their tier is particularly cheap, but this was pay-as-you-go SIM, so I wasn’t worried about another bill at the end of the month
  • By the way, there are outlets all over UK, and they sell big brands items really cheap… Probably you can find one near to you or so… My friends used to get make-up stuff from there (I mean genuine make up stuff), but my understanding is that bags, watches and the like can be found there as well…
  • Banks: Personally, I used natwest, but Burclays is also very popular… I didn’t have any complaints about them, but I heard that some of the Sudanese in Nottingham who were also using natwest got their accounts frozen/ closed without prior notice and with no known reason.. I’m not sure of the details of the story, but thought to mention it to you…
    A handy tip to monitor your expenses is to use to 2 ATM cards (you can get 2 even for one bank account): one that contains only a limited amount of cash and you would carry usually daily, and the other would be your saving card, i.e. it contains big chunks of cash, and so you would keep safe and use in case of emergency or so… This limits your shopping appetite, and you may find it working to your advantage…
    To the same line, avoid walking around with big pieces of cash…a) you don’t need it  … b) you don’t want to be stolen.. c) if someone steals your ATM you will easily deactivate it and get your cash back…
This leaves us with when:
  • Sales are a big deal in UK… And unlike the gulf, theirs are real! an item costing 100 pound may be sold for only 25 off-season !  Generally, there are sales and special offers for any kind of item you wish to have actually!
  • The general rule is to buy winter clothes at the end of winter (late Decemeber through January, Christmas time really: boxing day is 25/12, and you would wish to catch this day and the days after it as the sale would continue), and similarly get summer clothes at the end of summer….
Beyond these, I really recommend modesty in packing your bags.. No matter what you take, you will probably wear only 1/2 at best! Take food with you if you feel you must (cakes and tea for me), but otherwise, everything is available over there.. Don’t get more than one Jacket with you, as they will generally burden you when travelling, and they are not likely to be convenient for UK weather as well…
Also, make sure you monitor your budget wisely… It is easy to be addicted to shopping over there, and go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over your budget.. Try to monitor your expenses, so you would detect if you have an issue…
The most valuable tip is this: know as much as possible about your uni… Know all the services they have to offer, and probably some day they will be invaluable to you… The beauty of UK, is that international students are everywhere, and you so you would find your peers easily…
It would be great if you could grow some kind of plant/ flower in your room or office… It would feel great… No kidding!… (But that is probably for a different email!)
Anyways, this really means I’m concluding my email!…  If i could remember more, I’d definitely send it to you in shaa Allah, Or if there is a specific thing that you are keen to know, then please let me know….
Best wishes,…
May Allah lighten your way, give you wisdom and patience…
fi aman Allah,
Azza
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